Self-Care Series pt. 3: Find What Fuels You

Self-care is important.

And part of self-care is just finding out what fuels you — what gives you energy, life, and rejuvenation. In the first two parts of this series on self-care, I walked you through the importance of rest, and then exercising & eating well.

Today we are talking about the things that not only bring you peace, but also joy. Things that not only make you feel rested, but also make you feel motivated.

A few things that give me life are spending time outside, meditating on scripture, and connecting with others (more on the last in a post-to-come).

Opt outside

I love to be outside. Whether it’s a hike or a bike ride, a climb or a picnic, I love to soak up the sun and breathe fresh air. There is something about spending time outside that makes my soul sing.

Unfortunately, the greater Dallas area does not have much (or really anything) to offer in terms of mountains. But when I am able to escape the 214 and hop on a plane to Colorado, or most recently Utah, it’s always time well spent.

While I prefer mountains, I’m not too picky — I also appreciate the piney woods of East Texas, or the simple parks in DFW. Thankfully, being a happy dog mom means going on a minimum of two walks a day. At times they are short and sweet, but I always treasure these times in the morning and evening.

Meditating on scripture

Spending time alone with My Heavenly Father also fuels me. It both brings me peace and lifts my spirit. I will admit I am not the most disciplined at my daily quiet time, but when I prioritize a slow morning with God, I notice a tangible positive difference in my energy and attitude the rest of the day.

I have found that having a designated devotional helps me be more dedicated when reading scripture. It gives me direction and focus, and it overall helps me have deeper, more intentional time spent with The Lord.

Find what fuels you

Maybe you’re not like me. Maybe the great outdoors or a spiritual relationship don’t speak to you. Maybe instead you’re fueled by alone time, volunteer service, or long car rides. We are all different and that’s okay! We can all like different things and have different environments, activities, or relationships that fuel us.

During times of apathy or lack of inspiration, I encourage you (and myself) to find things that motivate you. I encourage you to find what speaks to you, what gives you life. Find what gives you joy and pursue it!

Healing: The Journey, Not The Final Destination

Healing is a process.

If there is anything bipolar has taught me, it is that healing is a process and a journey. There is no specific destination, no specific time and date that we are fully healed–not in my experience, at least.

When I look back five years ago to my diagnosis, I was devastated and confused and hurt. I did not understand what was happening and I faced severe depression and anxiety.

When I look back at the past couple of years, I feel encouraged and excited and whole. These years have been full of bliss and peace, they have been practically depression-free.

But I would not consider myself fully healed.

Even though I have come a long way from 2016, I still experience down days and anxious moments. I still feel over-exhausted and run myself thin. I still have to regularly assess my needs and habits and adjust them as needed.

My gut response is frustration and confusion, “Why don’t I ultimately and forever feel better? When will I be fully healed?” But when I think about my mental health journey, I realize it’s been just that: a journey. And with journeys, although sometimes there are final destinations, many times they are just an ongoing process of learning and discovering.

Honestly, I don’t want it any other way.

This journey mindset reminds me to learn and discover and work toward healing. It gives me hope and joy and pushes me forward. If there was a final destination, I would be wondering why I haven’t arrived by now. I’d be wondering when my emotional and mental fulfillment would finally come.

So if you have been hurting or lost or upset for a while now, if you feel like you’re running thing or scrambling for hope, I would like to offer you this bit of wisdom: healing is a process, a journey. You are doing a great job as you chug along and do your best. I’m proud of you and I’m rooting you on!

Hello, 26: Takeaways During My 25th Year

Well I’ve (almost) made it another trip around the sun!

I turn 26 on August 31. Year 25 was a big one: I pursued attending law school (and got in!!), quit a job, started two new jobs, became a dog and plant mom, and experienced quarantine with this pandemic.

A lot of life happened this year, many good and not-so-good things, many highs and lows, many in-betweens. Overall, I am so grateful for every moment, because they have led me to where I am today.

Let’s review this year’s most memorable takeaways:

  • Don’t give up on yourself. Four years ago I dreamed of going to law school. In the years since, I struggled with very severe on-and-off depression. I didn’t think I had what it took to get into law school. But lo and behold, during Year 25, I pushed through, and was accepted! It feels amazing to say that and equally amazing to begin this law school journey.
  • Give yourself a break. Early on into Year 25, I quit my stable job of being a legal assistant and chose to work part-time as a nanny and part-time at the climbing gym. Everyone thought I was crazy, but this break was exactly what I needed to focus on both myself and law school. It was every bit rewarding and liberating and just what I needed.
  • Do things that make your heart happy. Climbing rocks, drinking coffee, eating tacos, all of these make my heart sing. Let’s do more of what makes us happy.
  • Puppy love is the best. Adopting Jack and being a dog mom has been the best thing ever. There’s no love like puppy love!
  • New things are scary, but they can also be fun. Starting law school this fall (next week!!) is terrifying to me. I have to re-learn how to study and prepare for class and take tests. But I am also excited! It should be a fun, hard journey.
  • It takes a village. Without my friends, family, church, climbing, and blogger community, I do not know where I’d be today! I have been blessed with the kindest folks and sweetest community, and they help me get by on the reg.

Year 25 was refining, challenging, stretching. It was eye-opening and humbling. I pressed into some hard moments and hard conversations. I took care of myself, I loved others, I spent time with Jesus.

I am thankful for all of the change I experienced in Year 25–job adjustments, career change, moving, and more. It was one heck of a year, and I can’t wait to see what Year 26 holds. Bring it on!!

The Monthly Update: July

115776072_10158597129993245_7557457322447573974_n

July highlights:

  • Fourth of July was a blast! I spent the entire day at my sweet friend Emily’s lakehouse with her husband and family. It was wonderful spending time in the sunshine with people who are practically a second family to me.
  • I went climbing in Austin at Reimer’s Ranch in the middle of the month. There was lots of sweat, but also lots of fun memories made. I led my first route (a special type of climbing) and I made new friends. The best of times!

July lowlights:

  • Thankfully, I do not have a true lowlight from the month. However, saying goodbye to my tiny apartment on Friday was the most bittersweet moment. I will miss living alone, nestling up in my place, and being close to my favorite Dallas neighborhoods. But I also am looking forward to growing as I live at home with my family again.

This month, I was filled by:

  • On July 25th, I had the privilege of seeing one of my oldest friends, Bryanna, get married to the love of her life. It was such an encouragement to be apart of such a special, joy-filled day. It reminded me that even though times are tough now, especially with coronavirus, there is still plenty to be thankful for and celebrate.

This month, I was emptied by:

  • Just like everyone else, I am very ready for this pandemic to be over. It is a struggle wearing a mask everywhere and adjusting to this new normal, but I am extra thankful for my health and my family’s health.

In August, I am looking forward to:

  • I officially begin law school on the 24th! It is absolutely wild to see this four-year-long dream come to fruition, I am utterly blown away.
  • My birthday is the last day of the month! Year 26 will include a lot of change, especially with starting school and moving back in with my parents. But I am excited and ready to see what else will unfold in this new year of life!

A Thankful & Delighted Heart: On Non-Plans & Law School

I’m going to law school.

Let me say it again and say it louder: I AM GOING TO LAW SCHOOL!!!! Four years ago in Nashville, I decided I wanted to pursue a law degree. For the past three years, I battled debilitating depression and discouraging anxiety. I had mood swings and low dips and dark, dark moments. It was hard for me to dream and plan for my future.

Last year (and really all of 2020), I miraculously felt healed in a lot of ways. My medication finally kicked in and I have only faced a handful of depressed days since. It truly has been the biggest and most surprising blessing.

So I decided to go for it! I took the leap of faith, bought some LSAT study books, took the test (twice), did okay on the test (twice), and applied for schools. And here we are, with my dream and plan unfolding right before my eyes, as I begin classes in just over a month.

Quite literally nothing went according to plan.

In undergrad, I never planned to go to law school. I never planned to veer off from my degree and career path in public relations. I never planned to move back home to Dallas so soon.

Post-graduate degree, I never planned to have bipolar disorder and struggle on and off and on again with it. When I began to dream about law school, I never planned for it to take me three years to take action and four years to finally attend.

And even going to law school now, I didn’t plan to stay in Dallas. I didn’t plan to move back home with the parents (again), and I didn’t plan to attend UNT Dallas.

But here we are!

Even though nothing has gone to plan, I am eager and excited and over the moon at seeing this dream come to fruition. It has been a rewarding and humbling and downright giddy experience. My poor little brain was pushed, pulled, and stretched mentally as I studied for the test, wrote personal statements, and applied for schools.

Lately, I have prayed for a grateful and delighted heart. In all honesty, I am not too thrilled to go back with living with my family. I love them dearly and treasure their relationships, but I know the dynamics of being an adult at home will be difficult. And I am not too thrilled to stay in Dallas. I love this city and it will always be home to me, but I was ready to spread my metaphorical wings and fly.

But here we are! I am trying to be thankful for the opportunity to go to law school, for parents who are generous enough to welcome me into their home, for a city that houses a community I cherish.

I am trying to be delighted at the way these non-plans have unfolded, to be delighted in that The Lord has been so gracious to me during this incredible journey of chasing a dream I feared would never happen.

So here I go!

It’s just little ole me with a big-hearted dream and a big-hearted plan to do big things and love in big ways. It’s just little ole me ready and waiting for good things to happen this year, my very first year of law school and my second time around living at home since returning to Dallas.

I am hopeful and expectant and giddy and excited! I am nervous and anxious and scared and intimidated. But it will be a wonderful journey, and I am just grateful and delighted to jump headfirst into it.

Get Up & Follow: On Grace That Moves

Have you ever been paralyzed by fear?

I know I have.

When I first moved back from Nashville and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I faced crippling fear and anxiety. Afraid I would always be depressed. Anxious that I would never be able to feel a sense of normalcy again. Afraid I would always be alone in this fight. Anxious I would be stuck facing intense mood swings and manic episodes for the rest of my life.

And for a long time, my fear and anxiety won. For a long time, I just sat in my room and wept myself to sleep every night, because I just did not see any good coming out of such a devastating life change.

I’m not afraid anymore.

It was not overnight, and it certainly took time and prayer and encouragement, but I’m not afraid anymore–at least not in the same way I used to be. It took months and months. It took prayers upon prayers. It took lots of crying, lots of therapy, lots of setbacks, but I’m not afraid or anxious about my disorder today.

The other day I read my morning devotional, New Morning Mercies, and it really spoke to me. It began by saying this, “We have a grace of empowerment. So get up and follow.” 

And it also said, “You have been granted by the very same grace all that you need to be what God has called you to be and to do the things God has called you to do in the place where he has put you.”

Now those are some words I needed to hear.

When I look back at my past, I am overwhelmed with gratitude and humility. I never would have chosen to suffer from a mood disorder, I never would have chosen to move back to Dallas and live with my parents again for a year.

But God’s grace moves! His grace is kind to us and gives us exactly what we need and when we need it. Even though it is an everyday challenge and obstacle, God chose for me to have bipolar disorder. He chose for me to return to Dallas. He chose for me to share my mental health journey as an encouragement and light to others.

I feel hopeful and expectant of the future.

There are plenty of challenges and obstacles that lie ahead, but as I begin law school (finally!!) and move back home with my parents again, I know good things lie ahead. I know school will be hard and demanding, I know relationships with my family may be tested.

But I also know that God’s grace has been kind to me as I take major steps in becoming an attorney. God’s grace has relieved me of major depression and empowered me to pursue this longtime dream. God’s grace has given me the best support system and the best opportunities to keep pressing on, even when times were hard, even when I felt hopeless of the future.

Dear friends, it is okay if you feel a little afraid and anxious–that just means you’re human, that just means times may be tough right now. But please, please do not forget that God’s grace moves, God’s grace calls us to be where we are and empowers us to pursue big dreams and do big things and love others in big ways.

I know His grace is sufficient for you, because it has been sufficient for me. I know His grace loves you in an unfathomable way, because I myself have been left speechless. So get up and follow! Let’s get up and go! Goodness lies ahead, and God’s grace endures.

Four Years Of Bipolar: On Hope + Expectation

Commissary

I was diagnosed with bipolar four years ago.

Four years!! That is four years of all sorts of mood swings, all sorts of both valley and mountaintop moments. That is four years of on-and-off depression and mostly-off manic moments (phew!).

My mental health journey has certainly been that: a journey.

Years and years ago, a mentor of mine Claire told me that my life is like a tapestry, this wonderful, brilliant, beautiful grandeur of a thing. She said that the hardest moments, the moments of doubt and weakness and trial, will only be a blip, a small stitching within an incredible, grandiose piece of artwork.

And she was right.

When I was first diagnosed, I thought my life was over.

I was afraid I would struggle with severe, debilitating depression the rest of my life. I was afraid of losing friendships and loved ones because they would not understand, they would not be able to empathize with my darkest lows.

I was afraid I would have to give up on my dreams, that the reality of bipolar would just keep me in the pits. I was afraid I would never fall in love, because who could love someone who was so unstable?

My fears were unfounded.

Yes, I have struggled with depression on and off and on again, but the past couple years have been surprisingly and wonderfully magnificent, practically depression-free. Most of my friendships have only strengthened as dear ones have stepped into my sadness with me, coming alongside me in the valley.

I have pursued my dreams harder and fiercer than I ever did before: chasing after this law school goal, taking the LSAT, actually following through with applications. I even fell for a guy who in turn fell for me for most of 2019. It was the most delightful surprise, and though we moved on, I am still abundantly thankful for what it was when it was.

I guess one of the biggest takeaways is this: goodness always lies ahead.

I have a lot of hope and expectation for the future. I have a lot of eagerness and readiness for what is to come. I know Jesus Man is good to me even during the darkest times, and I know His Father will surprise me with the best of things time and time again.

I know there are plot twists and turns and trials coming, too. I know the valleys loom ahead even though I don’t want them to — no one wants them to, after all. I know there will be moments of doubt and fear and weakness and mourning.

But there will also be times of joy and gladness and radiance. There will also be times of gratefulness and a heart that is overwhelmed with love and grace and utter peace. There will also be delight in its purest form as I give thanks to God Above as I am wrapped up in His merciful kindness.

So my friends, be encouraged.

Be encouraged that no matter what trials and tribulations you face, they are but a small blip in the grand tapestry that is your life. It may not feel like it now, but this too shall pass.

Be encouraged that you are not alone in your hardships or suffering, but instead remember you have a village of friends and loved ones who care for you, ones who will gladly come alongside you in the valley.

And lastly, be encouraged that good times and a hopeful future do lie ahead, no matter what your life may look like now: up, down, or in-between.

Hold Onto Hope: On Easter Sunday

Lately I have felt pretty hopeless.

With all of the chaos surrounding the coronavirus, it is easy for me to feel hopeless because I can’t change/control/fix the situation. I can’t come up with a cure. I can’t tell you when social distancing will be over. I can’t heal those who have the virus. I can’t leave my home when I want. I can’t magically start my jobs up again.

I can’t do a lot right now, and it makes me feel overwhelmed and weak and powerless. It makes me feel doubtful and anxious and insecure. I’m sad, I’m down, I’m at a loss.

Ironically, this upcoming Sunday is all about hope.

Easter Sunday, Resurrection Sunday, is focused on the hope of Jesus Christ, a hope that is radical and unchangeable. When Christ died on the cross, he left the disciples and his family and his followers devastated and confused and empty. He left behind people feeling doubtful and anxious and insecure.

But behold! He rose three days later, Easter Sunday. He rose again and proved he was the Messiah, the Savior, a being that we can put our hope and trust and faith in.

It isn’t every day a man lives and dies and lives again for you. It isn’t every day your Savior rises from the grave and gives physical, tangible, undeniable evidence of his love for you. That is why this Sunday is so special, amazing and unbelievable.

I can’t do much these days, but I can trust in Jesus.

Romans 15:13 says this:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Even though there is so much I cannot control, so much I question and doubt these days, I can stand firm in my faith. I can seek out those still, quiet and serene moments with my Heavenly Father. I can press into Truths found in scripture, I can lean into His promises.

Hope found in Christ gives us joy and peace. Hoping in Christ means I can find little joys every day, even when quarantine is hard and makes my heart heavy. Hoping in Christ means I can have peace with all that is going on, even if it is a lot to take in.

Sometimes it is hard to hope in Jesus Man. I can’t see him or hear him, sometimes I can’t even feel him near me. But the evidence of his life, death and resurrection show his love for me. They give me reason to hope. And I hope they give you a reason to hope, too.

The Monthly Update: March

March was a hard month for me.

And it probably was for you, too. My world has turned upside-down the past couple of weeks, as both of my jobs were put on pause, and a Shelter In Place order went into effect in Dallas.

But, as promised, I am delivering you your monthly update. I have plenty on my mind and heart lately, and I am looking forward to sharing with you in the days and weeks to come.

March highlights:

  • Right before my job at Summit was put on pause, I was promoted to Event Manager at our Dallas gym (my home gym). When we re-open, this will entail me fostering community at our gym through hosting events and competitions. I am so excited to reunite with the climbing community!
  • I got my second tattoo mid-March, a simple “joyful” in script with flowers. This little ink is a reminder the Fruit of the Spirit lives in and through me. Even on my down and depressed days, joy is in my soul and bones.

March lowlights:

  • The coronavirus crisis and social distancing is affecting everyone, including myself (obviously). It has been hard to stay home alone and physically distance myself from friends and family, but I am thankful to be safe in my apartment, for video calls, and for food delivery.

This month, I was filled by:

  • While everyone has been physically distant, I have seen so many people come together during this time: supporting one another, praying for others, sending each other love in the form of flowers, cards, and treats. There is so much encouragement and love swirling around, and it brings me utter joy!
  • I was able to have a video therapy session with Chelsey, my therapist of four years(!!). I had not seen her in a couple of months and the timing could not have been better. I loved catching up with her, listening to her wisdom and advice, and left with high spirits.

This month, I was emptied by:

  • The news of having both of my jobs put on hold was tough and discouraging. It made me feel sad and down and even minorly depressed for a couple of days.

In April, I am looking forward to:

  • Time to myself that I can use for creativity, writing, playing music, and more.
  • Continuing to connect with friends via video chats and phone calls, doing my best to spread the love near and far!

Feelings Are Feelings: On Feeling Things

I’ve never been a touchy-feely person.

I have never been one to give hugs, to cry in front of friends, or to even cry in a room by myself, for that matter. I have never been the one to say “I love you,” whether that is to friends, family, or significant others.

But when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder several years ago, everything changed.

All of a sudden, I was faced by an onslaught of emotions. Emotions toward my disorder. Emotions toward my Heavenly Father. Emotions toward myself and to others.

It seems like all I do these days is feel.

When I started going to therapy nearly four years ago, my sweet therapist Chelsey challenged me to “sit in your feelings.” When I first heard this, I am pretty sure I laughed–audibly and loud. “What does that even mean?!”

Soon after I learned what “sitting in feelings” meant.

It means allowing myself to feel and to dig deep into whatever I am feeling at that moment. It means accepting the seemingly “bad” feelings like sadness and anger and dwelling in them, even when I don’t want to. I only realized that these “bad” feelings are not bad at all, but only feelings themselves.

It’s not a bad thing to feel.

I used to perceive that showing feelings made me look weak. I thought I could not cry in movies or with my friends because others would think less of me, they would think I was too sensitive or feminine.

But these days, I realize that feelings are feelings are feelings. And we all face our feelings each and every day, whether we acknowledge them or not. Sometimes we sit in them. Sometimes we ignore them. Sometimes we face them head on. But we all have them, that is just how we are built, and that is okay!!

Here is my challenge to you:

I dare you to sit in your feelings at least one time this week. Whether you feel sadness or anger or absolute joy, I dare you to dwell in what you are feeling and allow yourself to feel that emotion. I dare you to be thankful for whatever feeling it is.

Because you are built to feel things. You are made to feel elated and down and worried and excited and sad and every emotion in between. Feelings are just feelings, and we are wired to feel things, and that is a beautiful thing.